Republican Sen. Luther Strange will be running for election one year sooner than expected, after Alabama’s new governor moved the special election for his seat from November 2018 to December 2017.
Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement Tuesday that she moved the date up to comply with state law on special elections. Strange’s GOP predecessor, Jeff Sessions, vacated the seat in February after he was confirmed as attorney general. Then-Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Strange to the seat.
Bentley has since resigned amid a sex scandal and Ivey, the state’s lieutenant governor, succeeded him.
“I promised to steady our ship of state. This means following the law, which clearly states the people should vote for a replacement U.S. senator as soon as possible,” Ivey said. “The new U.S. Senate special election dates this year are a victory for the rule of law.”
The primaries are now scheduled for Aug. 15 this year, with any possible runoffs occuring on Sept. 26. The general election will take place on Dec. 12.
Strange had been serving his second term as Alabama attorney general prior to his appointment. He has come under criticism since his office had been reportedly investigating Bentley, over claims that he had an extramarital affair with a former staffer and attempted to use the state’s resources to hide the affair. The former governor resigned earlier this month after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges related to covering up his affair.
Strange recently called criticisms of his appointment “politics at its worst,” AL.com reported.
Bentley had previously set the primary for June 2018, with a potential runoff in July and general election to coincide with the November midterm elections. He argued that moving the election to an earlier date would cost the state billions of dollars.
Ivey said Tuesday that following the law took precedent, adding that she sought the advice of legal counsel, leaders of the state House, and leaders of the Budget committees.
“This is not a hastily made decision,” Ivey said. “However, following the law trumps the expense of a special election.”
The move did not deter Strange.
“As I’ve said for months, I’m a candidate and I’m ready to run whether the election is next month or next year,” Strange said in a statement.
“As the only announced candidate for this office, I will spend the next several months being the best senator I can be, upholding Alabama values and working with President Donald Trump to drain the swamp and help make America great again,” Strange said. “The people of Alabama deserve nothing less and ultimately it will be up to them to decide who will represent them in Washington.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee pledged its support for Strange on Tuesday.
“The NRSC is always focused on our strong Republican majority, and Sen. Luther Strange has our full support,” spokeswoman Katie Martin said in an email.
The winner of the special election serves for the remainder of Sessions’ term which ends in January 2021.